Metal-Free Crowns: Types, Cost And Benefits

For many years, dentists have used metal crowns to protect and repair teeth — but now we have better alternatives.  Yes, there are non-metal crowns that provide a safer, more natural way to shield your tooth. And they’re just as durable as metal crowns.

Here’s a look at the common types of dental crowns, what makes metal-free crowns different, their benefits, and how to decide which type is right for you.

When You May Need a Crown

The most common reasons for a crown involve supporting the integrity of the tooth structure, though crowns may be used for cosmetic improvement, too.

You may need a crown if your tooth is:

  • broken or cracked from impact
  • decaying or severely discolored due to poor dental hygiene
  • weak from being worn down by damage or hollowed out by a root canal treatment
  • misshapen or unattractive from severe discoloration
  • missing large portions or absent after being removed
  • worn down at the cusps and no longer sharp
  • modified by a large filling or dental implant

The best way to know you need a crown is to have a dentist inspect your teeth. Only a professional can assess their condition and determine what the right treatment is.

Different Kinds of Dental Crowns

When it comes to tooth crowns, you basically have three categories: metal, non-metal, and fusions. The main difference between metal-free crowns and metal crowns is the comprising material, whether it’s a natural metal or metal alloy or a different substance.

What are metal-free crowns made of? Most commonly, they consist of a porcelain-based ceramic, quartz, glass, or resin, through zirconium and lithium disilicate are becoming increasingly popular.

  • Metal crowns: Crowns made of gold, platinum, copper, or nickel, or chromium are very durable. They last a long time but can still corrode eventually. Plus, they have an unsightly shiny appearance. Average cost depends on the substance and ranges from $500-$3,500.
  • All-resin crowns: This common, low-cost type of crown consists of composite resin. It’s easy to shape but is also easy to damage, so it’s sometimes applied as a temporary crown. Average cost is $300-$1,000.
  • Ceramic crowns: These metal-free crowns use porcelain or ceramic. They have a natural look that seamlessly matches your other teeth, so they’re often used for front-tooth crowns. Average cost is $800-$2,500.
  • Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns: PFM crowns have the appearance of porcelain yet incorporate underlying metal for reinforcement. And that makes them cheaper, too. Average cost is $500-$2,000.
  • Lithium disilicate crowns: This high-strength glass-ceramic is made of components like quartz and is thermal shock resistant. It’s durable enough to be cemented onto front or rear teeth and is has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Average cost is $1,000-$3,000
  • Zirconia crowns: An innovative type of crown consists of zirconium oxide that is stronger and more natural-looking than normal porcelain. That means zirconia crowns are metal-free, non-toxic, and have been proven to handle the most pressure of any non-metal crown. Average cost is $1,000-$3,000

The cost of a non-metal crown varies based on its materials, availability, and how much time and effort are needed to prepare and affix. Most non-metal crowns are more expensive than metal crowns, although some metals are pricier than resin.

Benefits of Metal-Free Crowns

What are the benefits of metal-free crowns? Metal-free crowns are better because they:

  • Are less conducive to cold and heat, thus less likely to trigger sensitivity
  • Won’t trigger reactions from metal allergies
  • Are faster and easier to fit than metal crowns
  • Easily mold into the ideal shape for your mouth
  • Look more natural, imitating the pearly sheen and color of real teeth

Metal-free crowns used to be weaker than metallic crowns, but that’s not the case anymore, thanks to innovative modern crowns like zirconium. Now, they can withstand the force of biting, chomping, and chewing every day.

How long do non-metal crowns last? More durable types like zirconia last 10-15 years on average, though they can last 20 years or more with proper dental care and usage. More delicate types, like porcelain crowns, break down sooner and only last 5-10 years. Research has found that the survival rate of ceramic-based crowns is similar to that of metal ones.

Metal-Free Crowns for Back Teeth

Metal crowns are most co  mmonly used to cap molars because their durability can withstand the constant grinding and chomping of these teeth. And their position in the back of your mouth means it doesn’t matter as much if they don’t resemble a natural tooth.

Previously, metal-free crowns like all-porcelain crowns did not have the same resilience as metal. Dentists had to use porcelain fused to metal if you wanted a natural look for your back teeth. But new materials are changing that. Now you can have zirconia or lithium disilicate crowns added to your premolars or molars.

Metal-Free Bridges

Metal-free substances can also be used for cosmetic dental procedures in addition to tooth caps. Dental restoration procedures like bridging can benefit from the non-toxic, natural-looking qualities of ceramic or zirconia.

Dental bridges can fill the gap left by missing teeth in your mouth. Metal-free substances are malleable and can easily be molded to resemble the tooth being replaced. The bridge gets cemented to your natural teeth and anchored in place as part of your smile.

Metal-free dental bridges have the most natural look that imitates the tooth enamel. That’s especially important if you’re missing a visible incisor or canine in the front of your mouth.

Why should you replace missing teeth? Gaps in your gum line can lead to infections, which could cause permanent damage to your jawbone.

Choosing the Best Kind of Crown

Dental crowns are ideal if you have a partly decayed or damaged tooth that needs some extra protection to shield it. When choosing the right dental crown for you, consider:

  • The position of the tooth that needs to be capped.
  • The severity of your damaged teeth or tooth decay.
  • If you have existing dental work like dentures, veneers, or fillings.
  • How greatly you care about matching the natural color and appearance of your other teeth.
  • If you have a metal allergy or a tooth sensitivity.
  • How long you want the crowns to last.
  • Crown durability to pressure, especially if you tend to clench your jaw.
  • Your budget for dental work.

These are a lot of factors to consider, so consulting with a dental expert is your best step when looking at dental crowns. A professional can examine your mouth and recommend the best option based on your condition.

Need Help Deciding?

Unfortunately, many materials used in dental procedures over the years have actually contained toxic substances. These included silver fillings and crowns, amalgam fillings, and composite resin fillings. Even porcelain-fused-to-metal composites pose some risks, as the metal can loosen and seep out. You don’t want to use materials in your dental crowns that could lead to metal poisoning.

That’s why we recommend using metal-free substances for your dental crowns. A foundation of our biological dentistry practice is to care for your mouth’s health beyond its appearance, ensuring you only use biocompatible dental materials.

Our cosmetic dentistry practice in New York specializes in dental restoration and oral health. We’ll ensure that your crowns look dazzling, stand up to pressure, and keep your mouth healthy. Contact us to discuss options for metal-free dental crowns or any other dental needs.

Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned biologic restorative dentist with more than 40 years of clinical practice experience.

He studied neuroscience at Colgate University and attended dental school at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry where he now serves as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care.